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Statement by His Excellency the Honorable Dr. Denzil Douglas, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs
on the occasion of the opening of the General Debate of the General Assembly on the Fiftieth Anniversary of the United Nations
New York, September 30th, 1998

Excellencies, Distinguished Representatives, Mr. President, Secretary General, Ladies and gentlemen:

2. It is indeed my privilege, on behalf of the government and people of St Kitts and Nevis to have this opportunity once again to address the General Assembly.

3. I feel especially pleased to participate this year which coincides with the commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, an instrument that has sought for the last fifty years to protect and advance the political, social and cultural human rights of peoples around the world.

4. Throughout this half century, the debate on human rights has focused critical attention on cultural, social and political rights. Regrettably, we failed to develop an international agenda, which includes economic rights as an integral part of fundamental human rights.

Conceptually, poitical human rights, now a critical component of some foreign policy positions, have been fused imperceptibly with democracy, hence politics and human rights, have become synonymous. I too am an advocate of human rights protection, and I believe strongly that if we insist on politics in human rights, the politics should be to enhance human dignity and the human condition, by including all rights.

5. The corpus of human rights demands innovative approaches whereby an individual's human rights are not measured only by the freedom to vote, but also by the right to self-development in a holistic sense.

6. On the eve of the new millennium I am still quite dissatisfied with the level of attention the world community is paying to the severe economic, environmental and potential political problems that threaten small island developing states, These problems are not new to this forum, they are well established and documented facts.

7. Only last year, I spoke about the vulnerability of small island states and the need to establish practical, viable programs to help us in our development processes. I lamented also on the serious and ill-conceived notion of graduating small states like St. Kitts and Nevis into artificial categories based on GNP per capita.

Today, I stand before you, having witnessed again, first hand the effects of a hurricane which brought major sectors of the economy to a stand still, and increased the possibility of suffering. In a matter of a few hours, Mr. President, distinguished guests, the growth and progress of the last few years have been literally wiped from the landscape of our lives. Large sectors of our rural communities, in particular, now appear to be reverting to a state of abject poverty.

This is the stark reality. This is the reality of small island developing states. We have no tolerance for bureaucrats or financial houses telling us which levels of development is acceptable. Our reality after a hurricane is about people living without the basic necessities that we all take for granted. It is about families displaced, having to watch their dreams lie in ruins. It is about women and children made homeless. This is about real life, not figures arbitrarily concocted for dubious purposes.

It seems that we have come, as a community to rely heavily on figures, therefore let me share some with you. Initial estimates of the damage and loss in productivity caused by only one hurricane have been placed at US$403 million, far exceeding the GDP of St. Kitts and Nevis. An estimated 85% of residential housing stock suffered slight to major damage, while approximately 25% have been completely destroyed. The agricultural sector, one of the major pillars, on which the St Kitts &Nevis economy stands, has been devastated.

Agricultural output-sugar and non-sugar- is expected to be reduced by as much as 50% next year. The health sector and our ability to provide high quality care have been seriously compromised. Not only did the smaller rural hospitals suffer damage to property and equipment, but also the Federation's main hospital, the Joseph N. France General, lost a significant portion of its roof, and damage to equipment is considerable.

The scene of devastation is equally mind-boggling and severe in other neighboring islands, therefore the suffering in my country is not unique. However, the fact that we suffer the same fate year after year, rebuild only to watch our progress washed away so easily, speaks to the need to look seriously at the vulnerability of island states.

I make an urgent appeal for the international community to come to the aid of our countries and people. A resolution will shortly be introduced to this assembly on countries of the North Eastern Caribbean affected by this year's storm, and I urge countries to support this effort by co-sponsoring the resolution. Also, I wish to express the gratitude of my government to those agencies, persons and governments which have responded so readily in lending assistance.

I would hasten to add that the task of rebuilding will not finish as soon as the eyes of the camera shift their focus, nor will normalcy in its true sense return in a matter of weeks. We need material, technical and financial support on an on-going basis.

8. I feel compelled to reiterate the problems of small states, especially in the light of continuous attempts to undermine our economies. My government does not take lightly the complaints brought before the World Trade Organization, which are tantamount to the devastating hurricane winds on the small vulnerable banana producing economies in the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States.

I also fear, as such initiatives continue, the sugar industry in my own country will suffer a similar fate. Our negligible exports, in percentage terms, cannot pose any credible threat to any trans-national corporation or large producers of banana and sugar. However, the removal of this fragile access that we must fight to maintain, could wreak untold havoc, in social and economic terms, on the lives of so many poor families in the Eastern Caribbean.

9. Mr. President, the insidious tentacles of injustice have such tremendous reach, therefore, international institutions such as the United Nations will be expected to devise ways to arrest its corrosive character by lending considerable support to the efforts of small island developing countries.

I say all this against the backdrop that most decisively, the twentieth century has etched in our consciousness, evidence of the power of the human mind in its infinite creativity and potential. Now, we cure illnesses once thought incurable, create technological feats that boggle the mind. I salute the men and women who have made this century great.

10. It becomes critically important, therefore, as nations, that we utilize these catapulting developments and shared experiences as the blueprints for the enormous challenges of poverty eradication, illicit drug trafficking, nuclear proliferation, war mongering, economic inequity and disaster prevention and mitigation.

In as much as this century has brought exceptional technological advancements, economic initiative and growth; the new millennium will demand greater moral strength and public leadership. It will require its leaders to develop similar courage and statesmanship against powerful challenges. It will dare us all to harness the moral energy to transcend partisan agendas in favor of a common global imperative.

11. It is impractical to alienate an individual's human rights from their right to development. These are inseparable and paramount My government regards the growth of human rights in its entirety as a genuine step towards strengthening democracy itself.

In order for democracy to take root and the democratic process to develop in its sincerest sense, we must nurture the complete range of fundamental human rights. Then and only then will the human person flourish.

When we hold up ourselves as standard bearers of democracy and bastions of human rights protection, it becomes essential to preserve human dignity worldwide. It has been said, and I quote "when the empire of man over nature can no longer be easily extended, then the only way for a people to increase its standard of living is by redistributing the sources or fruits of industry from others to themselves" end of quote.

12. Mr. President, any real hope for a more peaceful and equitable 21" Century lies in the evolution of our thinking on human rights and other issues critical to small island states. One of the most crucial challenges in the coming century will be to address the quicksand of uneven economic development within the current economic system. These have direct consequences for the disparities in wealth and resource distribution.

13. Mr. President, I raise the issue of vulnerability not to crave preferential treatment for our region, but because the international community must be mindful of our peculiar circumstances.

14. It is being said that the structure and growth of the world investment climate are being shaped by current events such as the Asian crisis, the European monetary union along with the creation of the Euro, advances in technology, liberalization of national financial markets and their integration into a global market

Where does this scenario leave small island developing states like St. Kitts and Nevis, especially when so many critical actors militate against our development priorities? Foreign direct investment is considered one of the main vehicles of the liberalization process.

15. Small developing economies are being forced to liberalize and integrate into the center of a global economic system, which has always relegated us to the periphery. International capital is steadfastly in search of new market yet has continued to overlook our region.

Consequently, the vast majority of the 4 trillion dollars in foreign direct investment spent in 1997 bypassed our countries. At the center of international integrated investment flows I quote, "are large international and transnational corporations and their affiliates whose global sales volume were estimated to have reached 7 trillion dollars in 1995" end of quote.

16. This begs the question, Mr. President; how do our agro-based, and export-oriented economies cope with, or even attempt to compete against giant transnational institutions, in an era, where international production has now become more important than exports, in terms of the delivery of goods and services to foreign markets?

17. Foreign direct investment, as I have come to understand it, integrates markets through intra-business activities and the production systems of countries. Therefore, our economies cannot participate in this huge and rapidly growing production system because we have not been given necessary technical, technological and material support to move into the center of the global market place through its main vehicle, production. To make matters worse, Mr. President, we have not been allowed opportunities to gain appropriate access to those critical markets, whereas, foreign businesses based in these countries, have the access and capability to dominate and flood our markets with cheap products.

18. One only needs to pay casual attention to the media to appreciate the tendency towards national and transnational mega-mergers and strategic economic business alliances that are taking place around the world. Our region is fast developing a competitive disadvantage.

19. Earlier, I spoke of injustice. I consider it an injustice when capital can be mobilized and deployed in such ways that could easily destroy the welfare of entire nations with impunity, or stifle competition completely. Globalization has been touted as a great vehicle of opportunity and promise, but I ask, for whom, Mr. President?

Globalization, it is said offers a huge reservoir of resources for investment growth, economic equity, and social advancement However, distinguished colleagues, in my region, we are yet to see these promises. In the Caribbean, we are much more familiar with the risks.

20. In anticipation of the changes taking place, our countries have made significant reforms. Regrettably, however, the international community, including prominent international financial institutions has not always rallied in support of our efforts. Like the hurricane, each year we build and rebuild, but are susceptible to external forces. Our efforts seem to go unnoticed.

Today, the wide rift between expectation and achievements continues to grow. St. Kitts and Nevis looks forward to the convening of a Special Session to review the implementation of the Barbados program of Action, and the Copenhagen declaration, and Program of Action.

We urge the United Nations and the International Financial institutions to take a fresh look at ways to help small developing countries to integrate into this emerging system. However, the rules of this system will have to be informed by our special situation.

21. We welcome initiatives on resource mobilization, external debt relief, trade and financing for development, and good governance of the international monetary and financial systems. Good governance should not only refer to developing countries; it ought to be extended to include better management of the international economic system Failure to do so would only lead to instability and uncivil societies and an ungovernable global marketplace.

The socio-economic and political dilemma facing Small Island developing states must be addressed now, otherwise, the human and political cost would be much too high.

22. Mr. President, many small nations pay our assessed contribution regularly into the United Nations system despite meager resources and challenges to our national survival We expect more. We expect tangible benefits from our membership. It is incumbent on the United Nations to work with small island states to ensure that they reap the rewards of the changing political market economy.

23. In my address last June to the United Nations Special Session on Drugs, I assured this community of my government's commitment to fighting the illicit drug trade. The government of St Kitts and Nevis remains resolute in its commitment to cooperate in the eradication of the narcotic trade and associated vices.

This noble fight against a most nefarious and well-financed enemy, Mr. President, carries a high financial cost It is important to recognize that the role of consumption is just as important as that of supply. Therefore, we have a shared responsibility and must focus on joint approaches informed by cooperation, mutual respect and understanding. St Kitts and Nevis r ' undaunted and relentless in its approach to the interdiction of illicit drugs, as we work together with all nations, in the name of justice, equity and advancing the human condition.

24. In the spirit of advancing the human condition, Mr. President, my government urges restraint, patience and dialogue on the critical issues that separate the Chinese people in both geographic and political terms.

It is our sincerest hope that the common aspirations and expectations of the Chinese people will be fulfilled in the near future within an environment of peace and mutual respect. We believe that the family bonds and historical tradition that have made the Chinese people a great nation ought to be preserved. We believe that the time has come for the voice of the millions of Chinese people on the Republic of China on Taiwan to be heard and factored into the international agenda. We believe that adequate, urgent and practical mechanisms must be developed to allow them to participate in he work of all nations.

24. In a world bedeviled by so many challenges, and in need of collective action and new resources, we alienate people and governments at our own peril. We have an obligation to work with and encourage the Chinese people on both sides of the Taiwan Straits to support the progress made to date, so that the advancement of the human condition transcends politics. I urge negotiation and the development of confidence building measures, as a way forward to improve cross strait relations. We also call on the Government of Iraq to abide by all United Nations resolutions and to release all prisoners of war and detainees of Kuwait and other countries.

25. In conclusion, as we continue the debate, I trust that we will be able to move beyond the constraints of the developed- developing country paradigm, of us against them.

26.To advance the human condition in its entirety will require meaningful partnership. Instead of apportioning blame, I urge you to join with me, as we rededicate our energies to the search for solutions. By working together, it becomes easier to find ways of attaining our national aspirations without trampling on the legitimate dreams of others.

27. I thank you. God bless you all.